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November 23 2023

celebrities in the Q Train station, western vs eastern attention to detail, rip brobot

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Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

Winifred Gallagher

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shoutout to 503, what a banger.

we don't notice whats out there in favor of whats in our own heads

For a story called “Pearls Before Breakfast,” the Washington Post staged a clever experiment that unwittingly illustrates how what you habitually attend to affects your identity. Posing as a musician playing for donations, the violin virtuoso Joshua Bell performed breathtaking classical works on his $3.5 million Stradivarius during morning rush hour at a D.C. subway stop, and the reporter Gene Weingarten observed the public’s response. The Post’s stated objective was an exploration of “context, perception and priorities—as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?” From a different perspective, however, the experiment demonstrates the way attention shapes not just your immediate experience, but also your individuality. Early speculation about Bell’s incognito concert included fears that the handsome young star would be mobbed, and that police would be needed to manage the crowds. In the event, however, sixty-three people passed by before anyone even paused to listen. After forty-five minutes, 1,070 people had paid no attention at all to the glorious music, and just seven had actually stopped to listen. Accustomed to earning up to a thousand dollars per minute, Bell made a total of thirty-two dollars and said he felt “oddly grateful” when someone threw in a bill instead of change.

one of the first things that go when you start drinking is subtle humans cues. both producing and consuming them

Even when you think you’re focused on what’s going on, these data show, you miss things that occur in quick succession, including fleeting facial and vocal cues.

brain hemisphere "preferences" give the same energy as "im an enfj aries"

Popular wisdom has it that the brain is neatly divided into the analytical, verbal left hemisphere and the intuitive, creative right hemisphere, and that some individuals’ behavior is more influenced by one side than the other. Up to a point, there’s some truth to these notions, but research on so-called brain lateralization quickly becomes more complicated. The more difficult your task, for example, the more both hemispheres are likely to get involved.

check out Black Rednecks and White Liberals for more on this phenomenon

The choleric honor ethos that still prevails in much of the South and West is rooted in the old Scots-Irish and Hispanic herding cultures, whose descendants have settled much of those areas. (Exhibit A: the former secretary of the navy and now Virginia senator Jim Webb’s Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Formed America.) “Herders are tough, because they can lose their cattle or sheep—everything—in an instant,” says Nisbett. “So for them, it’s ‘Don’t mess with me!’” Reared in this bellicose tradition, “many men from these regions feel they must respond directly with violence or the threat of it to any insult or infraction, especially if it concerns home and family.”

the west do be baconin'.

After a dozen years of investigation, Nisbett is convinced that Homo sapiens’ natural inclination is to attend to and think about the world in a holistic way, as East Asians do. Instead of focusing in on the environment’s most significant feature, such as those three bright, centrally located tropical fish, in the Western fashion, our species evolved to take in the big picture: the entire aquatic context, of which the fish are just a part. By nature, human beings are also inclined to consider each situation on a case-by-case basis, as Asians do, rather than to sort things according to the laws of logic and categorization, like Westerners. As Nisbett puts it simply, “In most of the world, people’s range of focus is much broader than ours.”

this is why managa is so interesting. mangaka usually originate from japan, but manga protags are notoriously individualistic/western. their "reliance on friends" is a need to protect their friends, a very pro-social act. yet because of some power or strength, they are the only ones that can do it

The human being’s naturally expansive, relational focus on reality was radically altered in the West when the ancient Greeks came up with a new, artificial, analytical way of attending to the world. Ever since, Western children have learned to focus on objects or subjects in an evaluative, logical way. We scan a situation, quickly seize on what seems most significant, label it, then apply categorical rules to explain it or make predictions about it, says Nisbett, “and all with a view of controlling it.” The attentional habit of sizing up a situation in a way that prepares you to take charge of it is a cornerstone of Western individualism. This master-of-my-fate ethic and the categorical, logical focusing style that supports it confer many advantages. It was the Greeks, after all, who invented science, which is all about thinking in terms of types and rules rather than individual circumstances. Where the drawbacks are concerned, as Nisbett says, “Many Westerners don’t look to the left or the right to see what other people might want or need. After I give a lecture, an American will just say, ‘Swell talk!’ But a Japanese person might say, ‘You seemed nervous.’”

wide angle is like zetsu, focused lens is hatsu

Similarly, Asians’ focus on context and relationships supports their more collectivist ethic. Compared to individualistic Westerners, East Asians are generally better at picking up social cues and affective nuances and at functioning cooperatively. This attentiveness to their wider social and physical context reflects their long historical experience in densely populated, highly interdependent societies. To function efficiently in such circumstances, you need very clear roles and rules about relationships. “Asians almost never act in an autonomous Western way,” says Nisbett. “In order to get things done, they have to coordinate with others much more than we do. So they look at the world through a wide-angle lens.”

see book recommended above about black scholasticism in the us

Nevertheless, compared to other groups, blacks still do a fraction of the homework, which suggests that these students aren’t highly focused on scholastics as yet. In contrast, Asian students actually achieve much more than their IQs would seem to predict, because they work so hard in school. Thanks to their culture’s stress on academic achievement and not shaming the family, says Nisbett, “a Chinese-American with an IQ of 100 achieves at the level of a white American with an IQ of 120.”


Young army troops similarly name and bond with the little tanks that iRobot designed to detect deadly roadside IEDs in Iraq, where they’ve significantly cut casualties. If their mechanical protector gets damaged, says Brooks, “the soldiers will bring it in to the repair shop and wait for it to get fixed, like you would for a friend in an ER, rather than just take another machine.”

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living (Second Edition)

Russ Harris

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urges seem to function like a fire, they need kindling and dry wood to keep burning. it takes energy to stay out of homeostasis. being happy/angry/sad/horny too long all cause exhaustion. call your doctor if your emotions last longer than four hours!

Most urges—from the start to the end of one “wave”—last about three minutes (although sometimes they can go for longer). Sometimes when I say this, people protest that their waves go “on and on for ages.” To which I compassionately reply, “Yes, that’s right. At the moment, they do. And there’s a good reason for it. It’s because you’re doing the same thing that we all naturally and instinctively do: you’re resisting them.” There are so many ways we resist our urges: we may fight with them, ruminate about them, worry about them, try to distract ourselves, try to push them away, or dozens of other emotion control strategies. And when we respond that way (when we flick the struggle switch on), yes, that does make them go on for ages. But when we make room for them, the waves usually rise and fall pretty quickly.

"vegeta, what does the scouter say about his power level for oreos!?"

The main modification to the TAME technique is that while we’re doing this, we think of the urge as a wave and watch it with curiosity as it rises, crests, and subsides. And to help with this, we can score the urge on a scale of 0 to 10. This enables us to keep track of whether it’s rising, peaking, or falling. For example, “I’m having the urge to smoke, and it’s now a 7.” “Oh, it’s rising to an 8.” “And now it’s a 9.” “Still at a 9.” “Now dropping to an 8.” “Now down to a 6.” And so on.

i think the number thing here is really smart. its like counting red cars on the highway, it makes the abstract real.

Notice at least five sounds you can hear, at least five objects you can see, and at least five things you can feel against the surface of your body (such as the air on your face or the chair against your back or your feet on the floor).


Your Book Review: The Dawn Of Everything

Scott Alexander


i dont think we'll ever get a straight answer on this. ironically, imo the way to get closest is to not study and just trust our gut. if the hunter gatherer human was around for most of our time as anatomically modern, he/she is very much still in there, just waiting to be heard.

Somewhere, within the morass of innuendo and expressions of their own political leanings, as well as the undeniable encyclopedic display of archeological and anthropological knowledge, there is a truth as to how humans lived prehistorically, and how civilization, with all its ills (and its goods) came to be. But what is that truth?

Commonplace Daily Digest is a daily newsletter with highlights from my reading and thoughts. The markdown is automatically generated by this repo.


Happy Thanksgiving!